The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Nellore District, Andhra Pradesh
The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is the largest active Hindu temple is located on an island called Srirangam formed by the Cauvery River and its distributary known as the Kollidam River or River Coleroon as it was named by the British. The temple was constructed in the 1st century AD following the Dravidian form of architecture covering a total area of 156 acres.
Influence on culture and religion
This temple is one out of the eight Sywayambu Kshetras where Lord Vishnu had manifested himself. Four of these eight places such as Tirumala Venkateswara Temple and others are located in South while the rest four including the Badrinath Temple are located in North India. Lord Vishnu is worshipped in all these eight places by hundreds and thousands of devotees every year. Philosophers and theologians like Ramanuja are also worshipped in this temple as he had left his family life behind and had made Srirangam his headquarters along with his disciples. This temple is also one of the five different temples that have been dedicated to Lord Vishnu and situated on the banks of the Cauvery River.
The presiding deity
The reclining idol of God Vishnu or Sri Ranganathanswamy is the main deity in the temple complex. The shrine is made in the form of an om symbol and plated with gold. Inside the shrine is the idol of Sri Ranganathan lying on a coiled serpent called Adishesha which has multiple heads hovering over the head God Vishnu protecting him from sun and rain. The reclining figure of God Vishnu is surrounded by idols of Brahma, Hanuman, Garuda and Vibhishana.
Other shrines present
The shrine of Goddess Ranganayaki or the consort of Vishnu is located beside the main Shrine of God Vishnu. The shrines of the different forms of God Vishnu such as Narasimha, Gopala Krishna, Rama, Chakradhazwar, Hayagreeva and others are present all around the complex. There are shrines dedicated to Ranganayaki to major saints like Venugopal and Ramanuja also present inside the temple complex.
Rituals and worship
People offer various items in their worship of God Vishnu at this temple. All offerings are put into a “Hundi” or large vessel. If the vessel is not able to accommodate the offering, then it is handed over to the staff of the temple. The “Tulabharam” ritual is performed by donating various items like rice, sugar, dal, turmeric, coins, etc. For the “Thirumanjanam” and “Annadharam” ritual, people offer money. Receipts for all offerings and the money are immediately issued by the temple staff. Prasadam that is given to devotees include curd rice, sweet pongal, a mixture of pieces of fruits and holy theertham.
During Viswaroop seva of the sri ranganathaswamy temple timings, anybody can enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple complex. This period is between 6:00am to 7:15am. Puja is held from 7:15am to 9:00am in the morning, 12:00pm to 13:15pm in the afternoon and 18:00pm to 18:15pm in the evening. In between the puja timings people can have darshan from 9:00am to 12:00pm in the morning and 13:15pm to 18:00pm in the afternoon. Darshan is also possible from18:45pm to 21:00pm in the evening. Nobody is allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum after 12:00pm.
Religious events and festivals
The rituals and festivals in the temple go on for more than 250 days in a year. The various festivals that are held during the year are the Vaikunta Ekadeshi, the Jyestabhisheka, the Brahmotsavam and others. The “Pagal pathu” and the “Ra Pathu” rituals are held in the months of December and January stretching for twenty days. The twenty days of rituals are divided into two ten-day parts. The first day of the Ra pathu is called Vaikuntha Ekadeshi. Large vessels made of gold and silver are used to carry water during the Jyestabhisheka to wash gold ornaments of deities during the months of June and July.
The Bhramotsavam festival is held during March and April when the deity is taken to a garden on the second day and across the river to the village named Jiyapuram on the next day in a palanquin. The Rathothsavam festival is celebrated in January and February when the deity is taken around the grounds on a chariot. Festivals such as Chitra Poornima, Gaja Graha and Vasanthotsavam are also held at different times of the year.
Place of Pilgrimage
The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is one of the most popular Vaishnavite temples in southern India to be visited by thousands of Hindu devotees every year for participating in sri ranganathaswamy temple puja activities. It is a temple town that has seven concentric rectangular enclosures made of thick walls keeping the sanctum sanctorum at the center. The inner five rectangles serve as the temple complex while the outer two forms the settlement.